THREE Zimbabweans were recently arrested in Botswana for smuggling cigarettes into the neighbouring country.

A fourth accomplice reportedly died in as yet unclear circumstances as he tried to escape from the police, a local court heard last week.

Busani Ndlovu, Fundani Sibanda both aged 19 and Nicolas Ncube, 55, appeared before a Francistown magistrate charged with smuggling cigarettes and entering Botswana through an illegal point.

All three pleaded guilty to the charges.

Prosecutors said the three men were found in possession of 749 cartons of Sivelles cigarettes acquired outside Botswana and smuggled into the country.

However, during a hearing for bail, Ncube revealed that one of their accomplices had died while trying to escape from Botswana police.

Sergeant Ronny Mmuso of the Botswana police would not reveal how the man died, only telling media that the case was sensitive.

He however, opposed bail for all three saying Ndlovu and Sibanda did not have passports to enable them to remain in Botswana legally.

"Our investigations are still continuing. Although Ncube has a valid passport we fear that if he is released on bail he may not stand trial since he was arrested while on transit from Botswana," said Mmuso.

The case was postponed to September 2 with Ncube asked to avail sureties so that he can be granted bail after he told the court he would not abscond since he has family living in Botswana.

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